As a Hen Gathers Her Chicks 
###Matthew 23:37 /
###Psalm 63 (reading)

Jesus has returned to Jerusalem for the last time.
It won’t be long before He is arrested and crucified.
His sorrow for them was overwhelming and He took a moment to express His love and compassion for His people in a unique and interesting way. We can read from Matthew 23:37:

**O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. You kill the prophets whom God gives you; you stone those God sends you. I have longed to gather your children the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you refuse to be gathered.**

It is from this verse, I believe we can describe 4 distinct qualities of the love Christ has for us.

It is a **SHELTERING** love, a **SUFFERING** love, a **SELF-SACRIFICING** love, and it is a **SORROWING** love.

Let me tell you a story.

It was a hot day in the dry old American West. Cowboy country! As the railroad came roaring down the tracks, sparks were flying everywhere because of the sizzling hot temperatures. When the sparks flew, they could begin a fire that could destroy ranches, homes and livestock.

One particular day, there was a fire that spread from a railroad train in West Texas, and as it swept along it did major damage to one particular farmstead.

As the old farmer who owned the property walked through the ashes of his home and ranch, he saw an old hen lying on the ground, burnt to death. Her wings were spread open. In his anger, he kicked the old hen.

To his surprise…several baby chicks ran out from under her burnt wings. When the fire had come, the hen had literally draped herself over her little ones and took the heat of the fire to save their lives. What a mother!

We have a Saviour who did exactly that sort of thing for us. You see, the fire of God’s holy wrath should have consumed us… for we are not clean and pure enough inn our own, but that is when Christ came and spread out His arms on the Cross and then covered us in His blood!

What an incredible Saviour.

So let’s have a look at these four separate qualities which we find in the love of Christ, towards us.

#1. A SHELTERING LOVE!

Anyone who has ever raised chickens has seen that a hen protects her chicks. The chicks are pecking at the ground, or pulling up a juicy worm without a care in the world. Mother hen clucks occasionally and the little chicks chirp!Chirp!Chirp!

Then, a dog gets close or the shadow of a kite flies by, momma hen clucks an alarm, and the little chicks take off toward her. She fluffs up and a dozen chicks scoot up under her wings.

And late at night when its cold and windy the chicks run to the nest and all disappear under the shelter of wings, where it is warm and safe. She is their shelter from a cold and dangerous world.

As a little boy, I remember no place I felt more secure than in my mother’s arms. A vivid memory I have is becoming lost in a crowd, I must have been 4 or 5, and I was crying loudly, searching for my mom. When I saw her, I just ran into her arms, and she comforted me.

In Matthew 23:27, as Jesus is weeping over the future of that city, for he knows what is coming, he is showing the same kind of sheltering love. It is a desperate kind of love. He saw the suffering of His people. Pain. Despair. Hopelessness. Loneliness. It was a world of danger, sin and death. Jesus so much wanted to share His love with them, to protect them, and to save them — and He wept for them.

Things are not so different today. Ours is still a harsh world, and when things get really bad, we still wish we had a mum, whose arms we could run into.

Perhaps, you are suffering, and needing to be sheltered and loved. Maybe your mum is no longer with you and you miss her greatly. Maybe your mum was not really the best mum, so I want to remind you that Jesus is here for you today. He cares for you more than you can imagine. He wants you to climb into His lap and let Him hold you and shelter you when you’re scared or hurting.

#2. A SUFFERING LOVE!

It is springtime, and in many places ducks have made nests and either are or will soon be looking after their little ducklings. I heard a story about a family who discovered a nest on their property, and every day the children would excitedly go with their parents to feed mummy duck some bread.

The day her ducklings were hatching, they noticed red ants were crawling all over the mother. She was covered with them and she was shivering in pain, but would not leave her ducklings. She chose to suffer intense pain rather than leave her little ones. They ended up moving her and her brood, cleaning off the ants, and most of them lived. She would have stayed there until she was eaten alive rather than abandon her little ones. That’s a great mum.

I read once of a pharmacist who told how he sees all kinds and types of mothers come into the pharmacy, and when children are sick he said you get to see what kind of Mother a woman really is.

The bad mum comes in, stylishly dressed, but complaining her kid kept her up all night…how much of her time it took to go to the doctor, how much the medicine cost — she feels inconvenienced by her child’s illness.

The good mum comes in with no makeup, hair in a mess, grape juice stains on her right shoulder and some undiscovered bits of child’s sick on her left shoulder. Her child is crying at full force, but she never complains about anything — because her child is worth it whatever the cost of money or time. With a nurturing smile she tells him “it’ll be all right little one, we’re almost home.”

That’s the kind of love that Christ has for us! He has a Suffering Love. We can read about this in Isaiah 53:2-5:

**2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.**

This is a prophecy describing how Jesus **chose** to suffer for us, a long, long time before he even left heaven to become a baby in a manger.

#3. A SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE!

My dad was at high school in Durban during the late 1940s, and he told me the story of a chemistry experiment

This past week, once again, we have seen the results of terrorism, with several persons needlessly losing their lives, and many people injured, some of them with wounds that will not heal easily. We have all heard how PC Keith Palmer ran towards the terrorist, in an effort to halt his progress towards harming others, and that he was fatally stabbed in the process. His actions were selfless, heroic, and worthy of our respect.

Imagine a love so deep that it would sacrifice their own life in order to give life to another? This is exactly what Christ did for us. I Peter 3:18 says **“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit….”**

#4. A SORROWFUL LOVE!

The Killdeer bird is a medium-sized Plover, mostly found in the Americas, but can sometimes be seen passing through some parts of Europe. Female Killdeers have a fascinating method of protecting their young — if you accidentally destroy a nest by stepping on eggs you did not see in the grass, or mowing over it, this type of Plover will go back and forth near the nest, letting out a very desperate sound, as it comes to terms with losing its eggs or its young.

So many mums have struggled, sacrificed and suffered in raising her children. You have loved your little ones deeply, had so many hopes and dreams for them. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, they go down the wrong path and it breaks your heart.

The truth is, most children only see the struggle, sacrifice, and suffering as a parent who always nags, always says NO, and that they never understand them. It usually stays that way until we became older and have kids of our own.

I know of many mums and dads who have spent many days in anguish and spent nights weeping over bad mistakes their children have made, and some parents actually die of broken hearts for their children. This is the passion we see in Jesus, as He looks out over the city of Jerusalem.

Matthew 23:37 **“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were unwilling … ”**

2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ showed His love to the world. Most people were unwilling to receive Him then. They rejected His love, and suffered the consequences.

The heartfelt cry of Jesus stills reaches out, to you, today. He loves you so much and He wants to have a loving relationship with you. He wants to shelter you in His arms when you’re hurting, comfort you when you’re sick and strengthen and warm you when you’re crying. Most of all, though, He wants to give you eternal life and give you hope! His greatest desire today is to share His love with you.

The question we need to answer is this: *Are you willing to receive His love today?* For some of us, this question is about acknowledging once again, that Christ is our Lord and our Saviour, that our trust is in Him and in Him alone.

For others, this question, *‘are you willing to receive Christ’s love today?’* is about making that first step, recognising that becoming a Christian is not about religion or chapel attendance, or the kinds of songs we sing, or the version of the Bible we read — it is simply about the greatest love we can ever receive, the total forgiveness of God.

Amen.